It’s no secret that Redding’s grand list is made primarily of single-family homes. While we all love our bucolic paradise, the lack of commercial properties to pay their share puts the burden squarely on the shoulders of its residents, whether they be school age families, empty nesters, seniors, young people in their first homes or anywhere in between.
The problem of creating a sustainable base to keep the level of services in town and the high standards of our schools was a topic of conversation between a few people after the public events discussion group at the Heritage Center. Lead by Peter Bonfanti, they were dismayed at Redding’s slow recovery in the housing market and wanted to do something to bring more home buyers to town. They understood the problem is to enhance our value, but how?
Synchronistically, businessman Howard Sherman had recently approached First Selectman Julia Pemberton about volunteering to use his marketing acumen to raise awareness of our beautiful town. Pemberton put Sherman together with Bonfanti and his group and the Friends of Redding were born. Their mission: “Friends of Redding is dedicated to catalyzing interest in Redding to stimulate the housing market to preserve the unique character of our community”
Registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in December 2018, the board is comprised of retired financial executives Jay Lubin as President and Dan Sousa as Treasurer. Retired IBM executive Peter Bonfanti and attorneys Pam Elkow and Mike Wooters are trustees. Though not a board member, world class marketing leader Howard Sherman will head up the advisory boards and marketing efforts. Redding is fortunate to have these talented individuals volunteering their time. None have any financial interest in this initiative.
Redding has been impacted disproportionately from the housing crisis of 2008. Housing values remain 24% below the peak in the early 2000s. This represents a decline in the collective value of our homes of $640 million. Values of Redding real estate continue to drop while many surrounding communities are seeing stronger recovery.
This disturbing trend impacts every Redding resident. Every decline in housing prices makes an impact on the grand list of the town. The decline of the grand list increases the tax burden on every one of the taxpayers in the town. Every year it costs more to keep our services and schools at the same level, threatening sustainability if nothing changes. This impacts schools, social services, roads, emergency departments and town services. If housing prices increase, the grand list rises, and the burden will be spread to a more comfortable level for all. But, as long as supply is larger than demand, the prices will not rise.
Friends of Redding plans on putting our town on the map of the Purchase Journey of prospective homebuyers.
Think of your own Purchase Journey that culminated with buying here in Redding. Did you purposefully choose Redding because you were aware of it through family or friends? Or did you begin looking at a larger neighboring town and stumbled on Redding and fall in love? The Friends of Redding want Redding to be foremost in the minds of perspective home buyers and for them to look at Redding first and be impressed with our wonderful offerings.
The group is leaning in to the Town of Redding to become a partner to see this task to fruition. They estimate that the cost will be $100,000 each year for two years and have requested a grant for $50,000 for the first year. The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to give the grant to the group and has put it in the budget that has been submitted to the Board of Finance. They have also suggested the funds alternately come out of the town’s fund balance.
They plan to privately raise an additional $50,000 –or more- per year for the 2 years they expect the project to come to fruition.
How will the money be spent? By quickly identifying and hiring a targeted marketing company to be the boots on the ground for this project. Although they will be holding focus groups and studying the issues, this will not be a soft branding exercise where at the end of the two years, there will be a report and no action. The Friends of Redding understand that time is not on our side and they will have to move quickly to promote Redding in the marketplace.
Sherman said, “We are not fielding a study for buyability. Gravity is not a strategy. Do nothing and nothing changes.”
They plan to identify and target sites like EscapeBrooklyn.com, one of whose objectives is to help Brooklynites who can’t afford to purchase within the boroughs of NY find alternate locations to live or buy a weekend and eventual permanent home. Another early idea is to have an ad pop up on real estate sites like Zillow extolling the virtues of Redding when any of the neighboring towns is searched. Those and many other strategies will be strategized and implemented to promote our beautiful town.
Redding should be on the radar for all potential homebuyers, whether it be newlyweds, families with school age children, empty nesters who want to leave their large Greenwich home but still have a footprint in CT, people who want the best schools for their children while still being commutable to NYC… the list is endless. They just need an introduction to our town.
The marketing firm would clearly identify who has the highest potential to want to live in our town and appreciates its value and validate it. Who is the most likely to buy in our town and how do we reach them by inserting Redding into their purchase journey. The board and advisory groups will keep a knee in the back of the process to deliver success.
Right now, Redding happens to be an extraordinary value. But its existence has been hidden from the average home buyer.
Unlike an Economic Development council in towns like Ridgefield and Wilton, the group’s motive is not to purposefully revitalize and attract more business to town. Their focus is to attract the private citizens and homeowners. As a collateral to bringing in more residents, “We are attracting the potential customers and hopefully new businesses will want to grow here too.” said Treasurer Dan Sousa.
They are also not in the business of making any changes to town or to discuss the what ifs in the future. Promoting what Redding has to offer just the way it is will be a major focus. Connecting the dots in a straight line between people yearning for an affordable new home direct to beautiful Redding.
Strengthening our grand list and tax base makes it possible to pay for things and assures our financial vitality. Whether it be a language teacher in the elementary school or a grant to the library or improving the community center. Instead of cutting the budget in order to keep the mil rate the same, we could be adding services and soaring upwards instead of spiraling down.
The Friends of Redding promise to stay fully transparent during the process. The community is invited to an informational meeting on March 24 at 3 pm at the Redding Community Center. Arrangements are being made to video and livestream the meeting. Social Media will be leveraged throughout the process.
Advisory groups will be formed to oversee the process. Contact the leaders if you would like to volunteer.
For more information and to sign up for updates, go to friendsofredding.com
It’s time to sort out how to strengthen and revitalize the Redding market. Bringing in more qualified buyers across segments that reflect our values benefits everyone.